Leaving a message gets creative

Dialing for information

TEXT OF STORY

Renita Jablonski: More than 250 million Americans subscribe to a cell phone service. With numbers like that, you'd think we're all pretty eager to reach out and touch someone, right? Well, as Rebecca Sheir reports from Boston, we're not really all that eager.


Rebecca Sheir: Entrepreneur Gavin Macomber had a question.

Gavin Macomber: Have you ever wanted to call somebody and just prayed that they wouldn't answer the phone so you could just leave 'em a quick voicemail?

So he came up with a solution. It's called "slydial."

Recording: Ready to slydial someone? Enter their mobile phone number now.

[sound of dialing] The service makes sure your overly-chatty friend or boring relative doesn't pick up.

Recording: Slydial is now connecting you to this person's voicemail.

Macomber's company, Mobilesphere, has noticed that more and more people are trying to avoid potentially awkward or tedious conversations. But should you find yourself in such a conversation, you can always visit SorryGottaGo.com, [sound of doorbell] where you click one of 50-plus background noises [sound of baby crying]
to create the perfect excuse for getting off the phone [sound of cattle mooing] -- some more, uh, perfect than others. Then, for those not-so-comfy face-to-face situations, there's Popularity Dialer:

Recording: Hey, this is Mr. Johnson, calling from the office.

... where you schedule a prerecorded call on your cell phone

Recording: There's a big puddle of black ink coming out of the photocopier.

... to serve as the perfect excuse for getting on the phone and out of a boring meeting, say, or a bad date.

Scott Campbell: I can't say that's necessarily a good reflection of where we're heading with our technology and our personal relationships.

Scott Campbell's a professor specializing in mobile communications at the University of Michigan.

Campbell: I think it's just as much a matter of gaining control over your communication with others, as it is a matter of maybe being cowardly.

It's all about "boundary management," Campbell says, since we're so accessible these days to anyone, anywhere, at any time. And he believes the creators of these applications are pretty savvy to pick up on that. Just as long, of course, as we don't stop communicating altogeth ... [sound of dog whining] Oh, I'm sorry - gotta go! It's time to feed the dog. (Never mind that I, uh, don't actually have one.)

In Boston -- Sparky, I'll be there in a minute! -- I'm Rebecca Sheir for Marketplace.

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